As 94% of Poland's electricity comes from coal, the country says it needs ''more time than others'' to meet its CO2 reduction targets outlined in the 'Europe 2020' strategy. Polish industry is even more critical of the goals. EurActiv Poland reports.

After the EU summit on 17 June, which adopted the 'Europe 2020' strategy for growth and jobs (see 'Background'), Polish experts on energy and climate change warned that the new strategy will repeat the mistakes of the EU's climate and energy package.

Adam B. Czyżewski, chief economist at Polish company PKN Orlen, one of Central Europe's largest refiners of crude oil, outlined what he sees as the main weaknesses of the environment strategy:

  • The EU's climate and energy objectives lack a broader global reference: if only the EU sets such ambitious aims, its market will become less cost-effective and consequently less competitive on the global stage. Secondly, if only Europe pursues environment-friendly goals, such single-handed action will not succeed in preventing or significantly reducing climate change.
  • The year 2020 is too short a horizon for the environmental strategy, as within this time-frame prospective investments in new technologies will not have produced measurable effects.
  • The 20/20/20 objectives are over-ambitious and/or miscalculated. With a maximum exploitation of the available instruments the attainable levels are 14/10/10: a 14% cut in greenhouse gas emissions, a 10% increase in the share of renewables in Poland's energy mix and a 10% cut in energy consumption. However, 10/7/6 is a more realistic aim.
  • The EU's strategy involves the costly yet ineffective allocation of resources, since too many measures are to be assigned to the development of wind energy. Simultaneously, demand for energy from coal and gas is neglected, perpetuating Europe's dependence on Russian gas and weakening its energy security as a consequence.

Polish Environment Minister Andrzej Kraszewski was particularly critical of 'Europe 2020' for proposing a possible increase in emission cuts to 30%. He believes that such an option should only be considered if similar reduction plans are adopted by the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases like the US and China.

Otherwise, the European economy will become less and less competitive, he warned.

Kraszewski is generally in favour of ambitious reduction quotas, but he believes Poland ''needs more time than others'' to meet them. The minister proposed that anti-climate change provisions should be adopted less uniformly: 94% of Poland's electricity comes from coal and thus more attention should be devoted to developing clean coal technologies, he believes.

Waldemar Pawlak, the Polish economy minister and vice-prime minister, disapproves of changes to be introduced to the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Currently, most CO2 permits are given to power plants and energy-intensive industries for free. Yet in order to meet the new targets for emission cuts, permits are to be bought at 'auctions'.

According to Pawlak, the introduction of emission benchmarks and fees would be a better incentive for the member states to reduce emissions than auctioning, which will eventually cover all permits.

However, the Climate Coalition and the Polish Ecological Club – two of the major Polish NGOs operating in the environmental field – do not share the fears expressed by Polish politicians about the climate and energy targets.

Indeed, they criticised the reluctance of EU decision-makers to increase greenhouse gas emission levels, as ''only reducing countries' emissions by 40% by 2020 will keep the rise in average global temperatures to under 2°C – to which the EU has already committed itself''.

Polish citizens share NGO views on the urgency of environmental action and – unlike government decision-makers – value the climate more than economic balance.

According to a November 2009 poll conducted by the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, around 62% of Polish citizens believe that Poland should slash its emissions even if it were to cause rises in electricity, heating and fuel prices or add to the economic slowdown.